Imagine eating a golden ripe mango but not being able to experience its juicy sweet taste ! It can be quite disheartening to lose the perception of taste. In case of elderly who are already feeling low and weak due to the natural deterioration in functioning, a further loss in sense of taste can have disastrous effects on appetite as well as mood/ mental state.
In our previous blog, we have seen that there is a range of dis functioning starting from ageusia (complete loss of taste) , hypogeusia (blunting of taste perception), dysgeusia (abnormal taste perception) and the phantom taste (weird metallic taste even in the absence of food).
Improving taste perception
Often, taste disturbances having no known cause or the disease related are difficult to treat. There are few studies showing some extent of relief from certain therapies-
Supplementation with zinc helps improve taste sensations although it does take several months before results are visible. Zinc helps in increasing the number of taste buds. Although one may think that people who are zinc deficient may benefit more, but zinc supplementation even in those without deficiency has shown to have a beneficial impact on improving taste.
Also Read: THE CRUCIAL TEST OF TASTE AS YOU AGE
Certain receptors on the tongue are sensitive to temperature of the foods. Surprisingly a particular case study of an 80 year old woman showed that holding ice cube in her mouth before meals lead to improvement in taste sensation. Even otherwise, intake of cooling foods before meals can help reduce the unpleasant sensations of taste and flavour.
In some cases of altered taste perceptions, improving oral hygiene can help. In elderly it is important to prevent tooth or gum problems in order to prevent loss of taste. Mouthwashes have antibacterial properties and also help improve oral health.
Also, as we saw in our earlier blog, sense of smell and taste go hand in hand so it is important to treat any underlying olfactory problems in elderly. Often any blockages in the nasal passage due to cold or infections can lead to poor perception of smell and cause disinterest in eating.
Enhancing food flavors
- Use of lemon juice or tamarind in foods can improve flavor of foods
- Using a marinade for meats or certain vegetables before cooking can help flavors penetrate the food better thereby improving taste
- Sweet taste can be enhanced by using jaggery or honey
- Addition of cinnamon to soups or black salt to juices for elderly can further enhance taste
Old age is the most difficult phase in life cycle. Some individuals hate the dependence that comes with it and it further adds to their frustration. However, optimum nutrition is an important part of survival and good quality of life which should not be neglected or underestimated. When elderly complain of loss of taste or show disinterest in eating, one must make earnest efforts to resolve the problem in the best possible way.
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Dr Pooja Chhawcharia is the Senior Nutritionist at eKincare with over 7 years of experience in Nutrition education, diet counseling and research. She is a Registered Dietician with the Indian Dietetic Association and Certified Diabetes Educator recognized by the International Diabetes federation . She is also interested in ancillary sciences such as Yoga and Naturopathy.